Saturday, January 30, 2010

Grand Designs series: The Co-op, Walter Segal Houses, Brighton by Channel 4

video topic: architecture and human connection
entry type: documentary
entry no: 21

video title: Grand Designs: The Co-op, Walter Segal Houses, Brighton

video series: Grand Design
architect featured: Bob Hayes, Consultant: Robin Hillier
series host: Channel 4
run time: 50 min
size: 510 mb

official website:

description and preview:
(click "read more" below)

This project was a cooperative venture - 10 families each put in 30 hours construction work per week. In the process they earned the right to live in the houses at a greatly subsidised rent and, they hope, also created a ready community in an ideal setting, just on edge of the South Downs near Brighton.

Paul and his partner Jenny provided the impetus for the project. The couple had been living on the road as travellers and wanted to provide more security for their young daughter. A housing association bought the land from the council for £58,000. Paul then worked with the association to put the co-operative together. All the members were people on the council's housing list.

Each house cost about £60,000 to build, about the same as one made of brick and mortar, but this housing development was designed to offer the residents a quality of life unparalleled on any housing estate.

The houses are based on the system pioneered by Walter Segal (see Suppliers page), which is intended to allow anyone to build their own home with no prior experience. The design of the houses, which rest on stilts, was perfectly suited to the steeply sloping site. The method is very ecologically sensitive and very simple. Wall panels are made on the ground and erected side by side. The structure is then braced diagonally, and then the roof goes on. The roofs in this case were topped with grass, so they blend into the surroundings and reduce heat loss.

Apart from the concrete plinth, the entire structure was made of softwood, which is sustainable. The co-op also decided to clad their buildings in native timber, allowing them to personalise the outside of their homes with paint and stain. The planners only allowed them to build on one storey, which further simplified construction.

Progress was slow - after 14 months it looked as if the whole project would take at least another year. So to help morale, and to show what the end result might be like, one house was finished in advance of the others, Kevin joining the team to decorate it.

When Grand Designs returned to the site, nearly a year and a half later, all the houses had been finished - and with their colourful paint schemes, weatherboarding and wide verandas, they look rather like an informal collection of beach houses. Internally, the homes are also very individual. Because the walls are not load-bearing, each resident was able to decide on their own interior layout.

'We were a bit fed up with the build in the end,' Tony told Kevin. 'It was going on and on and on, and the last stages - decorating and so on - seemed to take forever.' But he had no doubt that it was all worth it. Other residents agree, and say that the process of building their homes has cemented their community.

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Below are the details of the suppliers used in the Brighton Co-Op

Bob Hayes
Consultant: Robin Hillier
020 7403 2889

Axor Shower Units
01372 465655

DC 210 Digi-Camera
Kodak Ltd
(Video cameras can be useful to record the locations of wiring and plumbing that are later hidden from view)
0800 281 487 (free)

Double Glazed Windows
01753 567055

De Walt UK
01753 567055

Earthworks Equipment
Harman Plant Hire
01273 603 021

Environmentally Friendly Paint
Holzweg Paint
020 7450 2211

Bric a Bric
01273 697 300

Emmaus Community Shop
01273 412093

Marthas Barn Furniture
01273 699360

The Pier
020 7436 9642

Robert Bosch Domestic
01908 328200

Kitchen Units
Ikea Croydon
020 8208 5601

Nail Guns
ITW Passlode
01482 223405

Fillcrete Ltd
01482 223405

Perryhill Nurseries
01892 770377

Q Lawns
British Fields Products
01842 828266

The Walter Segal Self Build
01668 213544

Work Clothing
Snickers Originals Ltd
01484 854488

Cargo Home Stores
020 7229 4449


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